I’ve had a number of surgeries in my day. In each case I weighed the potential risks and hoped-for benefits and made the best possible decision I could at the time. I asked the questions, got the facts, decided. I invoked the power of prayer by sharing the decision with those closest to me.
In some cases, like the recent stomach surgery or my shoulder surgery in 2006, it is really a moot point as to what I think or prefer. It has to be done. In other cases It’s not life or death. It becomes a quality of life issue. A wise ob-gyn first raised that idea decades ago: If I subject myself to the pain and risk inherent in any surgery now, will my overall life be better later?
Will the tubal ligation and bladder repair after my last child make my life better? Yes. Will the breast reduction surgery improve my health and self-image? Yes, yes. Supplementary question: why, in God’s name, didn’t I do it 30 years sooner? None of these issues resolve themselves, and as a rule, younger people bounce back quicker from surgery, so why delay the inevitable? Luckily I’ve never had complicating issues like diabetes or hypertension to contend with.
When the day finally comes, I show up at the hospital du jour all prepped and fasted and ready. I’ve said prayers for the surgeon and myself. I’ve accepted the good wishes and offers of help from family and friends. Then I release myself into the skilled hands of the medical community and the divine goodness of God. So far, touch wood, that trust has been well-placed because, well, I wake up. Then I get through the pain, inconvenience, and altered state called healing. And behold, my life is indeed better.
When you are the parent of someone undergoing surgery, It’s quite different. Yes, the prayers for child and surgeon are done and the trust called upon. But the hours spent in the hospital before, during, and after are incredibly long. No distraction seems big enough, no book or magazine sufficiently captivating. The feeling of helplessness is acute. As a mother, you want to spare your child pain. You want everything to be all right.
So you anticipate needs, advocate with the nursing staff, and provide a second set of ears for the post-op care instructions. You thank God that she is fine. Because you are the ?responsible person,? you fill prescriptions, fluff pillows, track the ingestion of meds, watch the surgical site for infection, go back to emerg, and try not to hover.
That’s not how I prefer spending a weekend. But as mothers, we do what must be done. I trust that her life will be better, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.